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NZ should separate foreign affairs from trade when dealing with China, Asia analyst says

New Zealand needs to take a different approach to international relationships and should separate foreign affairs from trade when dealing with China, economist and China analyst Rodney Jones says.

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The Asia analyst and Wigram Capital principal says New Zealand’s foreign policy is too closely tied to its trade. Source: Q+A

Jones believes that it’s time to decouple the two portfolios because while the two are married, trade dominates.

New Zealand "looks at everything through a trade prism", Jones told Q+A with Jack Tame.

This week, New Zealand's Parliament declared "severe human rights abuses" are occurring in Xinjiang against the Uyghur minority. That statement was watered down.

Originally, the motion by ACT deputy leader Brooke van Velden included the term "genocide". But, ACT said, that was removed after pressure from Labour.

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NZ Parliament passes motion on 'severe human rights abuses' of Uyghurs in China

Jones said while the declaration was "a good start", it's time to take a different tack with Aotearoa's largest trading partner.

"We've always linked foreign policy and trade since the late '80s, and that was the age of globalisation. Well, we know globalisation is in retreat and what we’ve done for the last 30 years, should we keep doing it, or do we need to take a different approach?"

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He said separating the two portfolios — for example, the coupling of the departments of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade —  would leave the Foreign Minister free to challenge human rights abuses.

"We need to speak with a very clear voice on that … what's happening in Xianjiang cannot be justified in any way.

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Parliament passed a motion yesterday expressing “grave concern” over the treatment of the minority group in China. Source: Breakfast

"They are doing what we did. I see what's happening in Xianjiang as very similar to the invasion of the Waikato — you take the land, you destroy the places of spiritual significance, you expel people, you put them in camps — it’s very similar."

Jones believes that coordinated opposition is more effective than individual action.

"That's where international pressure works. When the world says: 'This is unacceptable,' they can’t be cutting off trade with everybody. The more people that work together, the more we can exert pressure."

Jones thinks New Zealand should have been more supportive of Australia's calls for an independent investigation into the origins of Covid-19.

That sparked an escalating war of words, and the imposition of tariffs on key Australian exports such as wine and barley.

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'Genocide' label may be up for debate, but experts agree China's Uyghurs suffering 'crimes against humanity' — academic

"Australia was right — they said it badly, they didn’t build a coalition, but what they said was right."

He said New Zealand exporters might disagree, but "businesses can whinge and complain but they just have to get on with it".